United States Artists: Grants for Dance

OVERVIEW: United States Artists provides highly competitive unrestricted $50,000 fellowships to accomplished and innovative artists across several different creative disciplines, including dance and choreography.

IP TAKE: United States Artists gives out $50,000 grants directly to individual artists and small collaboratives each year. Support for dancers and choreographers is a significant part of this giving. This is a competitive and elusive grant; you must be nominated for it by someone else, and the nominators are anonymous.

PROFILE: United States Artists (USA) was created in 2006 by the Ford, Rockefeller, Rasmuson and Prudential Foundations to “invest in America’s finest artists and illuminate the value of artists to society.”

Today, the organization is funded by a range of foundations and individuals, and has its own permanent endowment that allows its USA Fellows program to provide unrestricted grants of $50,000 across different creative disciplines that USA delineates as Architecture & Design, Crafts, Dance, Literature, Media, Music, Theater & Performance, Traditional Arts, and Visual Arts. 

With something this fantastic, you’re probably worried there’s a catch. And there is one, to a degree. Application for a USA Fellowship is by nomination only; nominators change year-to-year, and they’re always anonymous. All that USA will share about their nominators is that they're always a “group of arts leaders, critics, scholars, and artists who live in every state throughout the country, from small communities to major metropolises. They work in diverse practices across virtually every artistic discipline.” There is a separate group of panelists that review the applications, and USA does share the lists of its previous panelists, which is also very diverse in geography, artistic discipline, and profession.

How do you get yourself nominated by an anonymous group of dance professionals working across the United States? Be inclusive in your dance-making; the more collaborative you are, and the more broadly you showcase your work around the country, the more likely you are to hit on one of these anonymous nominators.

Also, be aware of USA’s guiding values, because they certainly apply to the selection of fellows. USA seeks to support quality, creativity, innovation, risk-taking, and diversity. And although USA grant money is unrestricted, the organization also states that more than 91 percent of the grants it's given out have been used to “develop new art,” so as a dance artist looking to get USA’s attention, you’re better off creating new work rather than re-visiting the classics (or, if you do so, approach them in a radically new way).

Recent dance artists selected for the USA Fellowship were Jonah Bokaer (a brooklyn-based choreographer); d. Sabela grimes (a Los Angeles-based choreographer, writer and composer); and RoseAnne Spradlin (a New York City-based experimental choreographer). A full list of dance grantees since 2006 is on USA’s website.

USA wants to “close the gap between the love of art and the ambivalence toward those who create it,” believing that artists needs champions and advocates. It's given almost $21 million in support of over 450 artists so far—a good start for its own championing and advocacy.

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